Travels with MaryE

Most things I love best are about good light and good timing. That's where the adventures start. Don't be in no hurry here. Here you'll find a little bit about bluegrass music, fox hunting, life on the road, time on the mountain, and a whole lot about other things, too.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Pastoral Quiet of...Bleating Lambs!

Love that curly tailed one on the left... and a nice "family group" here...

If you've never been to Wales you owe yourself a visit to this land and right about now is a good time to visit. The hedges and trees are in bloom, the birds are busying themselves with nest-building, kittens are screeching around the farmyards and radiant flowers of yellow, purple/blue and white dot the roads and verges with spring splendour. Spring is early this year and the farmers around here are glad, glad, as it has made for a very easy lambing time. Still, lambing means a lot of long hard hours, sleep deprivation and maybe even the occasional grouchy countenance. Never mind. A few weeks and those lambs will be on their own and coping well...

The narrow lanes are well, challenging, to drive this time of the year as farmers busy themselves with dropping off truckloads of lambs and go about ploughing, spraying, fertilizing and working down their ground, at least for a person such as I who is accustomed to wide and relatively straight roads. But I admit I love the challenge and excitement of driving around rural Radnorshire.
On a Saturday morning walk I was greeted on both sides of the "deep" and narrow lane by natural bouquets of primroses (photo above; the primroses are actually a very pale yellow), celendine, and dainty white flowers of assorted varieties as well as enjoying the occasional wild bluebell blooming along the roadside. This must indeed be an old lane as there are steep banks on each side with hedges at the top. In places where farmers haven't tidied their hedges the shoots reach across and form a sort of natural canopy. It isn't like the sugar maple canopies I so enjoy on country roads in the mountains of New England, but it's very nice nevertheless.
Look closely at the photo above of a ewe and her two lambs and you may notice that there are different colors of "paint" on the back of the ewe. If you could see the sides of the lambs you'd see corresponding numbers on each of them. I may go into this later, but as ewes are about to lamb (note on many farms around here there are hundreds if not thousands of lambs being born each spring) they are put in individual pens and after the lambs have been born and the ewes have licked away the afterbirth and all that someone comes around and sprays numbers on each ewe and her lambs. Occasionally ewes may have as many as four lambs but more often it's one, two, or three. I suppose the ideal number is two since the ewe only has two teats to feed her lambs and those babies are hungry all the time.
Now this could get into a very long drawn-out explanation and I really am not qualified to write on this subject at all. So just enjoy the photos of the lambs and know that the numbers and splodges of color on the rumps of the ewes do signify something!!! When a ewe "loses" a lamb to disease (or the occasional hungry fox) if caught early enough the dead lamb will be skinned and its skin TIED onto an orphan lamb (yeah, sometimes ewes die like when they have a prolapsed uterus, gee this is getting too complicated and I am not qualified here) so if you see a lamb running around in sheep's clothing, well, there's a method to the madness. If that lamb has the same smell (because of wearing its skin) as the lamb that died often the ewe will "adopt" this orphaned lamb and treat it as her own. A ewe typically WON'T let any other lamb suckle her. Isn't this all brilliant? So the ewe above with the two lambs, there are numbers on her (a big purple 41) and a big blue splodge on her rump that identifies (I think) which farmer owns her. And her two lambs, I assure you, also bear the purple 41. This helps keep things sorted! Now the orphaned lambs who haven't got a ewe to suckle are called "tiddlins" (not sure if I spelled that right) and they are fed, much like human orphans, from formula-filled bottles with nipples. Normally the tiddlins don't fare very well but they are ever so much fun to feed and love on!
If you're up on the moorland like where I like to walk you'll see sort of free range sheep all around and they bear different markings and splodges of color, identifying to whom they belong. On the "common" land (usually poor land in an area where mostly reeds and heather and gorse grow) to which certain farmers in a given area have rights to graze "x" number of sheep, cattle, or horses, you'll see what I'm talking about. Then ask someone who really knows, this is just sheep markings for dummies here. Hopefully I got it about right.
Now for that job with the Welsh tourist board!

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